The Lessons Learned Project is delighted to announce the publication of its latest lessons learned paper, Maritime Capacity Building and the CBCG. Lessons from Security Sector Reform, by Professor Tim Edmunds, Professor in International Security and the Director of the Global Insecurities at the University of Bristol. In this paper, Professor Edmunds notes that Security sector reform (SSR) has become an important component of international peacebuilding, stabilisation and democratisation efforts since 2000. However, and until recently, its impact on the maritime sector has been limited. This paper explores the lessons learned from past or ‘mainstream’ SSR initiatives, and considers their relevance for maritime capacity building and the Capacity Building Coordination Group (CBCG) of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). It argues that the maritime sector presents some novel challenges to the SSR project, including the transnational nature of the maritime security environment, its jurisdictional and organisational complexity, and the often fragmented nature of the political communities in which it is conducted. Even so, it argues that important lessons can be learned from SSR experiences elsewhere.These include the importance and meaning of local ownership, the inherently political nature of the reform process itself, the dangers of externally-driven and overly technocratic responses, and the consequent need to work with rather than against local governance structures and practices.
Edmunds concludes that if MSSR (Maritime Security Sector Reform) is to be sustainable in the longer term and if it is to successfully address root causes of maritime security challenges, then the following recommendations should be considered:
- Given the close links between maritime and on land insecurity, MSSR should focus on land-based, as well as strictly maritime, issues in order to reach its objectives.
- While notions of ‘best practice’ are important, (M)SSR should avoid a rigid top-down approach to action in complex local environments. Rather, best practice should should be considered in terms of general principles.
- Rather than seeing (M)SSR as a guide to policy in and of itself, it should instead be conceptualised as a framework through which security reforms can be planned and coordinated.
- Local context is key. Where possible external donors should engage meaningfully with local knowledge and actors in determining the scope of the MSSR challenge at hand.
- Generally speaking, positive incentives play a powerful role in securing reform. Such incentives should be considered in line with local contexts.
- Beware the fallacy of ‘political will’, this masks real problems of politics which should be understood and addressed in their own right.
- Consider who the winners and losers of SSR will be. How can losers be incentivised and the range or winners be broadened?
- The value of civilian capacities to (M)SSR should not be underestimated.
Ultimately, Prof. Edmunds’ paper argues for an adaptive, politically sensitive and problem-driven approach to Maritime SSR, and warns against the adoption of formulaic models of ‘best practice’, imposed from outside.
The full paper can be accessed via this link: Maritime Security Sector Reform